Pan Awareness Vedanta

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Pan-awareness: Building a bridge between panpsychism and Vedanta: 

Pan-awareness: Building a bridge between panpsychism and Vedanta Anand Rangarajan Dept. of Computer & Information Science and Engineering Univ. of Florida


Overview Phenomenology Meditative phenomenology Pan-awareness ontology Ontology of subjects The combination problem Topologies Hierarchical frames Conclusions

Meditative Phenomenology: 

Meditative Phenomenology Mindfulness: Awareness completely focused at center of phenomenon. One pointedness, no split mind. Non-referential awareness: Awareness zooms out and is radically decentered. Pure consciousness event (PCE), nirvikalpa samadhi. Fundamental awareness/content distinction Hindu and Buddhist philosophical schools: longstanding debate over interpretation.


Irritability Prehension Sensation Perception Emotion Cognition Visualization Illumination Awareness Content Fundamental nature of awareness/content distinction (Aurobindo, 1985, Wilber, 2000)

Reductive Explanation: 

Reductive Explanation Logical supervenience reductive explanation Almost everything is logically supervenient on the physical (Chalmers, JCS 2:3, 1995). Exceptions are: Experience Physical laws Indexicality Panpsychism, dualism, idealism etc. cannot be summarily dismissed.

Why panpsychism?: 

Why panpsychism? “It’s logically possible”, - says Prof. Analytic Philosopher with a contemptuous tone Marginal view but upheld by Leibniz, James, Whitehead, Russell, Hartshorne, Griffin, Fechner Fundamental approach to consciousness problem Affinity with Vedanta, Vajrayana, Hua-Yen Recent resurgence – Seager, Strawson, Rosenberg


Ontology Agree with Strawson (JCS, 6:4, 1999): When awareness present, a subject exists. When I am aware, I am. Fundamental level: Subjects. Intersubjective exchange of content. Awareness NOT cognitive. Reminiscent of pan proto-psychism.


Representation Subjects and intersubjective network modeled as directed graph Phenomenology rides on topology. Connection directions indicate propagation of influence. Issues of spacetime metric etc. set aside for now.

The Combination Problem: 

The Combination Problem How does phenomenology add up? What about awareness of “mid-level subjects” [James 1890, Seager - JCS 2:3]? Intersubjective phenomenal content at mid-level? Quantum coherence etc. suggested as objective criteria. Ontology of subjects as a way out?

William James on combination problem: 

William James on combination problem “Where the elemental units are supposed to be feelings, the case is in no wise altered. Take a hundred of them, shuffle them and pack them as close together as you can (whatever that might mean); still each remains the same feeling it always was, shut in its own skin, windowless, ignorant of what the other feelings are and mean. There would be a hundred-and-first feeling there, if, when a group or series of such feeling were set up, a consciousness belonging to the group as such should emerge” (James, 1890)

Awareness and content: 

Awareness and content James’ confusion between awareness and content Subjects: Ontologization of awareness Feelings don’t “add” up but what about subjects? Compound subjects (Whitehead, 1928). Leverage “Atman = Brahman”?

Structure of awareness: 

Structure of awareness One-pointedness mode Decentered mode Phenomenological clue to combination problem Bypass issue of existence of topology prior to phenomenology

Combination principle?: 

Combination principle? Awareness binds configuration of lower level subjects Binding can range from one-pointed focus to a decentered zoomed out focus. Binding is dynamic: Tacit spacetime assumptions [Rosenberg thesis, 1997]. Leads to a hierarchical topology of subjects


Representation Topology connects higher level subject with lower level subjects – possibility space [Rosenberg, 1997]. Momentary awareness – combination of lower-level subjects. Bypass spacetime issues

Subject topologies: 

Subject topologies “The Many become One and are increased by One” (Whitehead, 1928) time

Subject topologies (contd.): 

Subject topologies (contd.) “More is different” ( Philip Anderson, 1972) Emergence model

Subject topologies (contd.): 

Subject topologies (contd.) “The One and the Many create the Few”

Panpsychism and Vedanta: 

Panpsychism and Vedanta Regardless of Advaita, Visistadvaita or Dvaita (Tattvavâda) orientation, Vedanta philosophies implicitly tell a combination story All agree on the PAN aspect of awareness Main difference – ultimate nature of subjects – irrelevant here. Potential meeting ground (Griffin and Smith, 1990).


Conclusions Awareness/Content distinction fundamental When I am aware, I am Awareness all the way down: Pan-awareness Combination problem for panpsychism Compound subjects but not compound objects Topology of subjects Different Vedantas can still play role


Bibliography Swami Sachidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Integral Yoga Pub., 1990. Arthur Deikman, “I”=Awareness, JCS, 3:4, 1996. David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind, Oxford Univ. Press, 1996. Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Lotus Press, 1985. Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality, Free Press, 1928. Galen Strawson, The Self, JCS, 4:5-6, 1997. Gregg Rosenberg, A Place for Consciousness in the Natural World, Ph.D. thesis, Univ. of Indiana, 1997. Ken Wilber, Integral Psychology, Shambhala, 2000. David Ray Griffin and Huston Smith, Primordial Truth and Postmodern Theology, SUNY Press, 1990. William James, Principles of Psychology, 1890, Dover, 1955. William Seager, Consciousness, Information and Panpsychism, JCS, 2:3, 1995. Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy, Oxford Univ. Press, 1988. Barry Dainton, The Gaze of Consciousness, JCS, 9:2, 2002. Eliot Deutsch, Advaita Vedanta, Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1969. Christian de Quincey, Radical Nature, Invisible Cities Press, 2002.


Discussion When I am aware, I am. Combination problem: Clues from phenomenology. Awareness operator - higher-level subjects. Distinction between ontology and representation. No a priori commitment to dual-aspect theory. Probabilistic hierarchical model with emergent constraints.


Phenomenology Migraine headaches: Reliable and repeatable phenomena. Two distinct modes of awareness: Awareness concentrated at center of migraine. Awareness detaches and is decentered. Oscillation between modes. Loss of awareness.


Intersubjectivity Hargens’s [JCS, 8:12 (2001)] taxonomy: Intersubjectivity as spirit. Transcendental. Intersubjectivity as context: Mesh. Intersubjectivity as resonance: Worldspace. Ontological: Empathy, Zelig. Worldview: Epistemological: Culture. Intersubjectivity as relationship: It-It, I-It, I-I.


Representation Taking van Gulick’s [JCS, 8:9-10] distinction between ontology and representation seriously. Different from most standard ontologies. Ontology Subjects Intersubjectivity Phenomenal content Compound subject Momentary awareness Representation Objects Relations Properties Part/whole relation Processes

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